Happy Homecoming Day for Mark Felderman

First coach in IMS baseball history returns to face Hillcrest as coach with Grand View Christian

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The baseball afternoon brought back almost 40 years of emotions for Mark Felderman.

The same for Jon Beachy, an Iowa Mennonite School graduate whose son, Josiah, now plays for the re-named school, Hillcrest Academy.

And the same for Leon Schrock, whose sons Luke and Liam play baseball for the Ravens.

Thirty-seven years after Felderman began the baseball program at Hillcrest, then the Iowa Mennonite School, Felderman stood there July 2 in a Grand View Christian High School baseball uniform at Highland High School.

The guys he once coached were dads sitting in the stands, unaware beforehand that their former coach would be coaching against his former team in a Class 1A district tournament game as an assistant coach for Grand View Christian.

“That was great,” Jon Beachy said following a postgame meeting with his old coach. “It’s been 37 years and here’s Mark Felderman. I heard them say his name when I walked up (to the field) and I was like, ‘That’s my coach.’ “

When there was a stop in the action as current Hillcrest coach Danny Hershberger made a pitching change, Luke and Liam Schrock approached Felderman, who was in the first base coaching box, and pointed to the place in the stands where their dad, Leon, was watching.

Felderman, who was a graduate student at the University of Iowa and 26 years old when he was hired to begin a baseball program at Iowa Mennonite School in 1985, couldn’t have been happier. For Felderman, it was alumni day.

“It was a really neat day for me,” said Felderman, who is Alumni Coordinator at Faith Bible Baptist College in Ankeny.

And clearly it was about faith. Just as it always has been at Iowa Mennonite School and Hillcrest, and at Grand View Christian, which is located just east of Des Moines.

“Here’s the thing,” Felderman said. “Both of our programs, both Grand View and Hillcrest, it’s about glorifying God. It’s about glorifying Jesus Christ. Baseball is second. And yet we all love to play baseball, we love to play, we love the coaches, we love everything about the game. We love Jesus Christ. That’s the important thing.”

At the end of the day, Hillcrest’s 11-2 victory in the opening round of the district tournament seemed less important than this 37-year reunion that never would have happened without the tournament matchup.

“Oh, baby, I was excited,” Felderman said about when he learned his team was going to play Hillcrest. “I called Dwight [Gingerich, Hillcrest principal and basketball coach] right away.”

It was a good day no matter the score.

“It’s too bad we lost, but it’s OK. We played well,” Felderman said. “We glorified Jesus. We were good sports, they were good sports.”

Go back 37 years and it was the same caring atmosphere back then. No question.

Iowa Mennonite did not have a baseball field for its first baseball team. So they practiced on grass. And then they went somewhere and played. And they were grateful for it. All of them.

“I’ll never forget Iowa Mennonite and Hillcrest,” Felderman said. “It’s a really important part of my life.”

“We just had a blast,” Jon Beachy said. “We had all away games, we practiced on the grass. It was great. We really wanted to get the team started and it was a lot of fun.”

Felderman was only coach for a year. A scary diagnosis of cancer stopped him from a second year.

“I was going to come back the next year, but I got cancer,” he said. “I was teaching down in Texas. The doctor told me I’d be dead by fall.”

He survived.

And now you understand why one baseball game’s score on a Saturday isn’t so important. The people are and the prayers are.

Felderman went home with a treasured souvenir.

“All those boys, they autographed a baseball for me,” Felderman said. “Now I’ve got an autographed baseball from this team [Hillcrest] to go with my autographed baseball from the first team.”

News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at bowkerpaul1@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul.

Mark Felderman, Grand View Christian, Iowa Mennonite School, Hillcrest Academy, baseball

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